If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you know that we write extensively on issues of teamwork, involvement, innovation and implementation. And we try to focus a lot on the issue of the interaction between the hands-on workers and their supervisors, since all the work gets done by the former and all the management of the working environment gets done by the latter.

This interface is a key one. It is influenced by all the other things up and about, but it is really that supervisor that controls most things, including the alignment of the workplace to the missions and goals of the organization, providing the feedback about performance to the people. It is the supervisor who controls the recognition and support for individuals and who handles the ideas that workers have for potential improvements.

For the past 20 years, we have been using the Square Wheels metaphor to better understand the environment and the interactions among the players. Workers push and Leaders pull. Things do not work smoothly and there are better ideas that could be implemented. Workers are more apt to understand many of those ideas but involvement of the leadership is critical to their implementation. Doing things the same way will generate the same result.

We use line-art illustrations for our workshops and toolkits, since the simplicity lends itself to higher effectiveness. The cartoons work as a Rorschach Test and people project their ideas onto the cartoons. (I will add abstracts of other blog posts at the end of this blog to support this thinking.)

A few months back, I started a conversation with Hakan Forss and we started playing with LEGO to help illustrate some of the ideas. So, a main Square Wheels image about how organizations really work now looks something like this, for blogging purposes:

How things really work in most organizations...

The reality is that the Round Wheels already exist as cargo of the wagon. The more of these IN the wagon, the more difficult it is to move forward; the message here is that unused and unimplemented ideas will bog down an organization, making even regular progress more difficult. And the related issue is the ROPE, which tends to isolate and insulate the wagon puller from the reality of the journey forward and which makes communication difficult.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

Occasionally, stop and take the time to involve and engage everyone in ideas for improvement and in alignment to the missions, visions, goals and objectives, since we know that those are critical aspects for generating motivation and engagement.

This morning, I generated 6 simple Posters that are anchored to the key questions we need to ask in order to keep things rolling forward. If you like them, I can generate a powerpoint set that you can use to facilitate some discussions around issues and opportunities.

(My plans are to connect each of these illustrations here to a one-page descriptive post in my poems blog, where I will expand on the idea and offer some tips. I have not yet done that, but I will… Right now, they will open the main home page of that blog. Soon, they will connect to their individual pages as I develop the thinking…)

LEGO SWs One Poster WHO

LEGO SWs One Poster WHAT


LEGO SWs One Poster WHEN

LEGO SWs One Poster HOW

LEGO SWs One Poster WHY

Who, What, Where, When, How and Why are generally the performance coaching questions we ask people (and ourselves). Asking them in a group will build better teamwork on creative innovation processes (lots of tools for this kind of thing) and will generate the peer support needed for generating ownership involvement and implementation of change.

Nobody Ever Washes A Rental Car!

We cannot expect people to be involved and engaged without a sense of ownership of the ideas and active participation in the implementation and testing of new ideas. People want to help polish the wagon and make things work better. But they are often risk-averse and want to get recognition for their efforts and ideas.

The supervisor is the only one who can manage the situation. PMC offers some simple tools for these processes of team building and organizational improvement.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine THE Games for Teambuilding PMC Home Page icon 2

Annotated Abstracts of some supporting posts by Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels? What the heck are those engagement tools about… An overview of the tools with links do slideshare and YouTube resources about the tools. Plus connections to my thinking on managing and leading change.

Facilitation? Me, a Facilitator? Me, a MOTIVATOR? — Simple thoughts on manager as motivator and as a facilitator of ideas. An overview of a simple and bombproof approach to involvement and discussion as to why anyone can use our engagement tools.

Positive Possibilities — Square Wheels for Performance Improvement — a more detailed overview of how people think and how the cartoons help people frame their ideas. Some very simple ideas for facilitation.

Square Wheels — NOT some simple model of organizational performance — a somewhat detailed overview of how the illustrations work to involve and engage people, with typical reactions and responses to illustrate the depth of thinking that can occur.

Square Wheels go Thump. Round Wheels already exist. A quick overview of some of the main themes of the Square Wheels approach, illustrated.

Elephants, Line Managers and Workplace Engagement – My thoughts on why managers are the ONLY people who can involve and engage and motivate the people in the workplace, and how task interference is getting in the way of generating organizational improvements in most organizations.

I trust that you might find some of these tools to be of interest and that our approach to motivation makes sense. It is not extrinsic rewards that will drive positive long-term organizational performance but the continuous involvement and engagement of the people doing their work.

You might also find this article on Presenteeism to be of interest,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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You can also reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.

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